“2022: a year of unprecedented hunger.”
Those grim words from the World Food Programme sum up an urgent catastrophe: the global food crisis.
We’ve all felt hunger. But how do you picture a global food crisis? It can feel so mammoth that it’s hard to fathom. What does it look like when 828 million people go to bed hungry at night?
Compassion’s local photojournalists understand. They are on the ground. And as they meet vulnerable children and caregivers, they come to know hunger by name.
These nine photos capture their experience from the frontlines.
For now, the families pictured may be the faces of the hunger crisis. But they are no one’s victims. They are brave. Resourceful. Hardworking. Resilient.
Let their photos remind you of the humanity behind the headlines. And let’s come alongside the vulnerable and answer hunger with hope.
1. Heartbreaking questions in Sri Lanka
“Why can’t we have chicken, Amma? Why is there no milk in my tea, Amma?”
Most days, mother Thamilselvi doesn’t have the answers to her young boys’ questions.
“When they keep asking me for things I can’t give them, it’s so hard for me,” she says. “I want to give them what they want. But I can’t show them my worries, so I keep it inside.”
For families like Thamilselvi’s, powdered milk is a food staple as they don’t have a refrigerator to keep fresh milk cool.
However, the cost of a one-kilogram box has risen by 208% from LKR 945 (£2.20) to LKR 2,895 (£6.76). This is more than double the average income of a Sri Lanka family living in poverty.
2. Longing Glances in Kenya
Eight-year-old Stella looks to the skies above her village in Ketusi County, Kenya, where rain has failed for three consecutive seasons. Crops have withered. Food is scarce. The prolonged drought is causing prices to rise sharply.
3. Frustrated mothers in Ethiopia
In northern Ethiopia, Fatuma’s community was besieged by soldiers. The resulting insecurity and food shortages worsened her family’s fragile situation. The price of teff grain, a staple food, had doubled.
“I take the little money I have to the market and come back confused and angry with what I could afford,” says Fatuma. “What use is money if it can’t buy anything? How can I feed my family when my income and the market are horribly unmatched?”
4. Fuel Queues for miles in Sri Lanka
A line of tuk-tuks queuing for fuel stretches for miles in Sri Lanka. The country is currently facing their worst economic crisis, with a shortage of foreign currency making it tough to import essentials like fuel.
For taxi driver Vigneswaran, the fuel shortage means he no longer has an income to provide for his three children. In desperation, he once spent 15 days queuing for fuel. The ration filled his tank for just one day.
“The families don’t have backup funds,” says Ayanka, Compassion Sri Lanka’s Senior Manager of Partnership, “and during this time of crisis they have gone through so much anxiety.”
5. Dried-up rivers in Kenya
In nine-year-old Vincent’s community, renowned for its honey, the river has shrunk to a lazy trickle. As the drought dries up the riverbed and withers the flowers, the local beekeepers’ have found their livelihood is also disappearing before their eyes.
6. Anxiety-plagued shopping trips in Togo
Until recently, corn was an affordable, everyday staple food for Togolese. Today, says Compassion Togo’s photojournalist Gabriella Samaty, “it has become rich people’s food.”
In a matter of months, the price has jumped from 400 CFA (£0.55) to 950 CFA (£1.30)—more than the typical daily income for a family living in poverty.
7. Painful reminders in Brazil
“Hunger is a word that reminds me of my childhood. I remember many days when the only thing we had to eat at home was flour or sugar. When my mother came home from work, we’d lie and say we weren’t hungry, because we didn’t want to see her sad, but our tummies hurt,” says Carla, a single mother of three children.
“Today when I look at the situation in which I live, I remember my childhood and all I pray to God is that He will not let my children suffer as I did.”
8. Fighting pests for food in Ethiopia
In Zere’s darkest moment, she found herself searching under furniture for a small bag of cereal that rats had stolen. When she found a handful of lentils, she felt blessed.
That night, she cooked them with care, counting out each precious legume and dividing them among her two children.
“I never imagined a day would come when I would look for scraps of food in the house,” she says. “I was desperate.”
9. Tears of joy in Burkina Faso — and all over the world
Violence forced 14-year-old Wennefangdé’s family from their home and into a tiny shelter in a displaced persons camp. Already vulnerable, they were bearing the brunt of soaring inflation, and didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
A visit from Ahoua, the director of the local Compassion project, almost brought tears of joy to the young girl’s face. In his hands was a 25-kilogram (55 pound) bag of rice and 5 litres -litres of cooking oil for her family.
“I will cook my favourite dish of plain rice to enjoy with my siblings. May God bless Compassion and the church for their love and care,” she says.
Amid the heartbreak, this situation is playing out at homes all over the world. Compassion’s local partners provide immediate relief and long-term support to those who need it most – including each family pictured in this story.
Your donation does more than feed a hungry child. It empowers parents to provide and stabilises vulnerable families. Together, we can answer hunger with hope today.